Chances are the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat would enthrall the basketball community if they met in the NBA Play-In Tournament.
ESPN’s Royce Young and Jerry Bembry on Thursday both named Celtics-Heat as the Play-In matchup they’d like to see most. The Heat outlasted the Celtics last season in the Eastern Conference finals, and the desperation to avoid shame both teams would bring to a Play-In meeting would certainly add extra spice to a potential meeting in the inaugural edition of the tournament.
“Heat vs. Celtics would be a pretty dramatic play-in matchup,” Young wrote. “Two Eastern Conference heavy hitters, both trying to correct a disappointing season and become a dangerous playoff team. But one has to go home with the shame of ending a disappointing season with no upside. It’s probably the matchup with the most at stake.”
Bembry added: “… Before the season, many people would have had the Celtics and Heat among the top 10 teams in the league. The combo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in Boston represented the NBA’s future, and the Heat were coming off an incredible run to the Finals. No one could have imagined both teams hovering around the seven/eight spots in the East.”
Boston and Miami both are 33-30 as of Thursday, but the Celtics own the tie-breaker advantage for sixth place, and the Heat are in seventh in the East. Nine games remain on their respective regular-season schedules.
Three games will comprise the NBA Play-In Tournament in each conference: The No. 7 seed will take on No. 8 in a single game, with the winner advancing to the NBA Playoffs as the seventh seed. The Nos. 9 and 10 finishers will play Game 2, and the winner faces the loser of the 7-8 game for the right to be the No. 8 seed in the NBA Playoffs.
The Celtics will try to finish sixth or higher in the standings and avoid the Play-In Tournament altogether. But should they finish in the Play-In zone, few outside of this region will complain if they end up facing the Heat in a rematch of last season’s conference finals.